Internationalization

Curtain Closes On Landmark Dubai Carnival

Had we been told before the 2017 Godolphin Mile that Triple Nine would ultimately finish just one place behind pre-race favourite North America, we may have been very excited. Well that’s what ultimately happened. That North America weakened to finish at the back of the main group with Triple Nine, for whom it proved a race too far, many lengths further adrift, might have been disappointing but does nothing to detract from what was a wonderful Carnival from a Korean perspective.

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Triple Nine at the Godolphin Mile (Screengrab from Dubai Racing TV)

Naturally, there are a bucket load of excuses that could be put forward for why Triple Nine didn’t do himself anything like justice (wrong trip, bad draw, muddy track of the type he lost to Beolmaui Kkum on last year, tired after a long campaign and so on and so forth) but it doesn’t really matter. It’s racing. It happens.

As it was, the closest Triple Nine came to a win ay Meydan was his first appearance on January 19th, when he closed strongly but just a little late to run 2nd to Hunting Ground over 2000M. The gutsy Triple Crown winner Power Blade landed consecutive 3rd places over a mile and 1900M before the pair of them both ran 5th in their respective Group races on Super Saturday.

Then, of course, there was Main Stay. He and Seoul Bullet both lined up for the 1200M Dirt Handicap on January 19th and for the first time there was real pressure not only to perform well but to actually win the race. As Dubai Racing TV pointed out as the horses came out onto the track “this race really is the Koreans’ to lose”. Seoul Bullet was slow out of the gate but ran on for 4th but Main Stay made no mistake. The race was won with a furlong to go and Terry Spargo’s “Chalk one up for Korea” call has been played at Seoul & Busan Racecourses every week since.

Seoul Bullet would pull up lame and play no further part in the Carnival as indeed would Main Stay after his second run three weeks later.

While Main Stay gets to go down in the history books, arguably the most significant result was that achieved by Diferent Dimension when he defied odds of 33/1 to come 3rd over a mile on turf on February 11th.

It was the first time for a Korean horse to run on turf at the Carnival and the race was well received back home not only because of the result but also for the way the horses ran tightly together as opposed to the wide margins on dirt. Plans are at an advanced stage for a turf track to be installed alongside the sand one at Seoul Racecourse and if the project is to be successful,  a substantial shift in mindset among horsemen in Korea in going ot be required. Actual proof that a Korea-trained (albeit by an Australian) horse can run well on turf is surely the best way to start that process.

Korea’s runners at this year’s Carnival were made possible by the performance of Success Story last year, his pair of 3rd places giving courage to owners and trainers. The unique nature of the Carnival also makes it ideal for a nation wishing to develop its racing, such as Korea. The horses get to spend a number of months in Dubai as do the grooms and workriders. They get to work alongside local grooms and riders and train alongside horses from all over the world providing an opportunity both to observe and to learn. Top international jockeys ride the horses – this year Ireland’s Pat Cosgrave handled the bulk of riding duties of the Korean string and a fine job he did too, both in work and in the races; his exhausting ride in Power Blade’s second outing standing out.

That regular Carnival races are competitive but not overwhelming also gives encouragement. The most exciting thing now is to see who emerges as a contender to make the trip in 2018.

Korea’s results at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival:

Triple Nine
1/19: 2000M (Dirt) – 2nd
2/9: 2000M (Dirt) – 4th
3/4: 2000M (Dirt – G1) – 5th
3/25: 1600M Godolphin Mile (Dirt – G2) – 11th

Power Blade
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 3rd
2/2: 1900M (Dirt) – 3rd
3/4: 1600M (Dirt – G3) – 5th

Main Stay
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 1st
2/11: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Diferent Dimension
1/12: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th
2/11: 1600M (Turf) – 3rd
2/16: 1600M (Dirt) – 7th

Seoul Bullet
1/19: 1200M (Dirt) – 4th

Triple Nine, Seoul Bullet & Main Stay All Go At Meydan Thursday

It was Power Blade and Diferent Dimension last week, this time it’s the turn of rest of the Korean stable at the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival to make their Meydan debuts. Triple Nine, Seoul Bullet and Main Stay will all run at the Carnival meeting on Thursday evening (early Friday in Korea).

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Triple Nine is among the Korea contingent going at Meydan Thursday night (Pic: Alex Cairns/The Winning Post)

Triple Nine will take part in the 2000M race 4 while Main Stay and Seoul Bullet will try their luck at 1200M in race 6. Pat Cosgrave, who rode Power Blade to 3rd place last week, partners both Triple Nine and Main Stay while Tadhg O’Shea will ride Seoul Bullet.

Race 4 (20:15): Meydan Sobha – 2000M Handicap – USD 125,000

 

As it was for Power Blade last week, Triple Nine’s race looks very competitive. The trouble is that as joint top-rated, he will be carrying 60kg which is 1.5kg more than he has ever carried in an actual race and 3kg heavier than he has won at in Korea. Nevertheless, Triple Nine remains a best-priced 5/1 2nd-favorite with most odds-makers. Favourite with those same odds-makers is Godolphin’s Fog Of War who hasn’t raced since September 2015 but there’s little to choose between a whole host of them. Munaaser won this race last year but doesn’t enter in tremendous form. The Mikael Barzalona ridden Hunting Ground is sure to be well backed as is Doug Watson’s Etijaah.

Race 6 (21:25): District One – 1200M Handicap – USD 125,000

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Race 6 is a similarly tricky puzzle. Both Korea-trained horses carry light weights in what doesn’t look a very intimidating field. Main Stay defeated Seoul Bullet over 1400M at Busan last month although the latter did stumble coming out of the gate. The Sweden-trained Giftorm is currently favourite having performed creditably at Meydan last year and winning a Swedish G3 in the Spring. The rest don’t appear to have a lot of solid recent form to go on although Shaishee, Indianapolis and Spirit Quartz have all recorded decent times, if not finishes, so at the strong risk of tempting fate, if there is a solid pace, the Korean-pair have a chance.

For those watching from Korea, it will be a late night with race 4 set for 1:15am Seoul time and race 6 coming under orders at 2.25am.

Holland To Return / Havlik, Sanna Licensed / Belli Extended / Park Geum Man Retires

There’s news on the overseas jockey front with three new additions to the licensed ranks from the start of this month.

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Darryll Holland was most recently in Korea to ride in the Keeneland Korea Cup in September (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Darryll Holland, who enjoyed a successful spell at Busan a couple of years ago, returns to the south coast on a four-month initial license. He’ll be joined by Italian Mirko Sanna. Meanwhile at Seoul, Jan Havlik is set to join. The Slovakian is set to renew his rivalry with Djordje Perovic with whom he has reportedly regularly competed with across Europe. Meanwhile, Marcello Belli has come to the end of his initial four months and has been renewed for a further six:

Name/Nationality Racecourse Type License Period
Jan Havlik (Slovakia) Seoul New
(4 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/03/31
Mirko Sanna (Italy) Busan New
(4 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/03/31
Darryll Holland (UK) Busan New
(4 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/03/31
Marcello Belli (Italy) Seoul Extension
(6 months)
2016/12/01
– 2017/05/31

Jan Havlik (42) turned professional in 1994 and in addition to his native Slovakia, has ridden in many countries across Europe for in excess of 300 career winners. He will be based at Seoul Racecourse.

Mirko Sanna (32) is from Italy. He began race riding in 2000 and has been primarily based in Italy but has also ridden in Malaysia, Australia, Germany, France and most recently in Canada. He will ride at Busan Racecourse.

Darryll Holland (44) is a former Champion Apprentice in the United Kingdom. He returns to Busan Racecourse where he rode 66 winners from 350 mounts between February 2013 and June 2014.

Marcello Belli (44) has been licensed at Seoul Racecourse since August 2016. The Italian jockey has ridden 4 winners from 88 mounts and his license has been extended for a further 6 months.

In other jockey news, 2010 Korean Derby winning jockey Park Geum Man has opted to turn in his license. The 37-year-old debuted when Busan Racecourse opened in 2005 and rode 270 winners from just under 3000 career rides. His license expired at the end of November and he didn’t request a renewal.

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Cheonnyeon Daero and Park Geum Man win the 2010 Derby (Pic: Ross Holburt)

Park had a relatively slow start to his career but under the guidance of trainer Peter Wolsley developed into, for a time, one of the top riders at Busan. His biggest win came on Cheonnyeon Daero in the 2010 Derby and he would go on to win the Busan Owners’ Cup on the same horse later that year. His other two group race wins both came in 2012 on Gyeongbudaero in the 2012 KRA Cup Mile and on Yapung in the Breeders’ Cup.

Korea Owned J.S. Choice Set For BC Juvenile Turf

It looks like J.S. Choice will run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf this coming Friday. The Todd Pletcher trained colt is owned by none other than the Korea Racing Authority Stud Farm.

I’m not going to claim this news sets the pulse racing to any great extent although the Korea Racing Authority and the racing media in Korea seem to be quite excited about it and there will be a sizable Korean contingent at Santa Anita to watch him. However, ultimately he’s an American horse, who has never set hoof in Korea, trained by an American trainer running in an American race ridden and will be ridden by an American jockey (Kent Desormeaux).

That’s not his fault though and he looks to be a promising horse. J.S. Choice has raced three times so far and having been 5th on his debut at Saratoga in August, he came back out at the same track to win at the second time of asking on September 5. He was then entered for the Group 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont on October 1st and ran 2nd (albeit quite well beaten by Oscar Performance who also runs on Friday) and this has proven enough to allow him to take his chance at Santa Anita.

The experiment is not without merit and is not purely a vanity project. The idea is that he was purchased in the sales having been selected for potential value by the KRA’s “K-Nicks” database and then sent to a top American trainer. He will do his racing in the United States and will then be retired for Stud duties in Korea. Interestingly, he has done his racing on Turf and with the KRA serious about installing a turf track at Seoul – something that would arguably be the biggest development in racing history here and on which work has already begun – stallions who have demonstrated ability on the surface are going to be required and the Authority, Korean horsemen and also punters will all need to become familiar with racing on a surface that was meant to be raced on.

J.S. Choice [Congrats – Oil Empress (Empire Maker)] is named with a nod to 2007 Korean Triple Crown winner J.S. Hold. He runs in the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Friday November 4th with an expected morning line of 20/1. I haven’t quite decided if I’ll be setting my alarm for what will be early Saturday Seoul time, but I do really hope he does well.

Djordje Perovic Reaches 100 Korean Winners

Djordje Perovic on Sunday became the just the fifth foreign rider – and the first who’s not from Japan – to ride 100 winners in Korea.

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Ton-Up: Djordje Perovic (Pic: Ross Holburt)

The Serbian jockey completed the feat on 14/1 chance Dream Sun in race 4 at Seoul on Sunday lunchtime and promptly followed up with another to take him to 101. That figure draws him level with Masa Tanaka as joint-fourth on the all-time foreign rider list.

Perovic’s achievement is arguably the greater as all of the other jockeys in the top ten, with the exception of Ikuyasu Kurakane, rode the vast majority of their winners at Busan which is well known to be more welcoming and accepting of overseas riders than Seoul.

Perovic has had to do it the hard way but he is now firmly established in the elite group of riders at Seoul. Despite missing three months of this year due to the need to fulfil license requirements elsewhere, he lies in 2nd place in the 2016 Jockey Championship behind champion Moon Se Young, four places ahead of 3rd ranked Jo Sung Gon.

Punters and others have often noted about Perovic that from the moment he gets on a horse in the parade ring until he dismounts after the race he is constantly stroking and soothing his horse. Very few jockeys do this in Korea. His style may look ungainly at times but it is extremely effective.

Next month Perovic has another opportunity when he is scheduled to partner a Korea-trained horse in the annual Goodwill Cup at Ohi in Tokyo. Well mannered, hard working and talented, Djordje Perovic has demonstrated that it is possible for a foreign rider to succeed at Seoul. May there be many more winners for the “Serbian Frankie”.

Korea Cup: Final Preview

It’s time. The Keeneland Korea Cup and Sprint are upon us. I went into detail about the Korea Sprint at the Hong Kong Jockey Club website so we’ll focus on the Cup here.

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A quick word on the Sprint though, I’m going to stick with Super Jockey although Super Winner will almost certainly begin as favourite and deservedly so on recent form. Wild Dude looks very dangerous. As hoped for, it’s a really open race which any number could win. As indeed is the Cup. Let’s get into it.

First off, the draw. At first glance, (16) POWER BLADE and (15) INFANTRY were the big losers. Jockey Kim Yong Geun’s theatrics at the barrier draw certainly suggested that, however, while nobody would have chosen gate 16, Power Blade began the Cup Mile from gate 10 and the Derby from gate 12. There are other reasons why it may be tough for Power Blade, which we will return to. As for Infantry, he can overcome it and having adapted to the sand reasonably well, is one of the main contenders.

The Japanese pair of (3) CHRYSOLITE and and (7) KURINO STAR O do look very dangerous. The track should hold no concerns for them and the draw has been very kind. With Joe Fujii on board, it is possible that Korean punters may make Chrysolite the favourite. He should settle reasonably handy and has a great chance.

(1) ORDER OF THE SUN is a capable sort but he was well-beaten by Infantry over a mile in July and that, combined with concerns on the sand, will make him less fancied that his fellow Singapore raider. Representing the UAE is (6) NEED TO KNOW. It’s not the racing season there right now so he hasn’t raced since April. Even with Tadhg O’Shea on board, this is a tough ask.

Europe is represented by Jane Chapple-Hyam’s (8) SOLAR DEITY. He’s an all-weather specialist who can’t be judged on his recent turf form (he’s been racing in very strong company) and while he won’t be among the favourites, a strong performance is possible under Darryll Holland, who rode this track when based in Korea at Busan. Moroccan bred (2) FAMOUS MARK represents France. He is another who hasn’t found it easy on the turf but was 3rd in a Listed race on dirt in Sweden in May and is another with a good draw today.

As for the Korean horses, Power Blade does have to catch the eye as we don’t really know how good he is yet. He won the Triple Crown without being seriously tested but this is a challenge of a whole different order and while he has only raced four times this year, can he be in peak condition once again? One hopes so but while a sizable minority in the Korean racing media have him to win, a top five finish would be creditable. That’s true too for stablemate (13) TRIPLE NINE, winner of last month’s Owner’s Cup over a mile.

Perhaps the most likely of the Korea-trained contingent is (5) BEOLMAUI KKUM. He made all to beat Triple Nine by five lengths in the Busan Mayor’s Cup in July, finally taking out a big race. Some observers argue that he is one of the most gifted horses to ever run in Korea but suffered from overwork in his early career. At 6, he now looks to be at his best and if he runs at it on Sunday, he could even win. He will almost certainly look to lead from gate-to wire.

Joining Beolmaui Kkum on the early speed will be (12) SAENGIL GIPPEUM and possibly (9) GUMPO SKY. Both are more than capable at this distance but staying on in this company will be tough. (11) DYNAMIC DASH has just been found a little wanting in good domestic company in his last couple of starts while Seoul-based (14) DYNAMIC JILJU hasn’t really faced much in the way of quality opposition. (4) MIRAE YEONGUNG and (10) WONDER BOLT are likely to be slower away. Both have strong finishes and are capable of picking off a few in the closing stages.

Fingers crossed for a good and safe race.

Selections: (3) Chrysolite (15) Infantry (5) Beolmaui Kkum (7) Kurino Star O (16) Power Blade

International Meeting Day 1: Lee Shin Young Trains STC and HKJC Trophy winners

Saturday saw day 1 of the Korea Cup meeting and there were several Trophy Exchange races throughout the day:

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Raon Amos won the Singapore Turf Club Trophy (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)

Trainer Lee Shin Young sent out the winners of both the Singapore Turf Club Trophy and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy. Raon Amos took the STC while Gray Socks was the winner of a messy event for 2-year-olds in the HKJC.

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Gray Socks and Moon Se Young return to scale having won the inaugural HKJC Trophy (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)

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HKJC Trophy ceremony (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)

Moon Se Young also won a race in a mini-jockey challenge that was held involving some of the  jockeys who will ride in Sunday’s Korea Cup & Sprint. Abderahim Faddoul, representing France was the best visitors although he has to wear the British silk after the French one went missing:

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Abderahim Faddoul received his trophy from Yangtae Park (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)

Earlier the Macau Jockey Club Trophy had been won by Ham Wan Sik on Dixie Ploit while later on, the Horse Racing Ireland Trophy ended with an easy win for Kim Hye Sun on Cheonji Storm:

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A slightly awkward looking HRI Trophy presentation party (Pic: Ross Holburt for KRA)

On Sunday it’s the main events, the Keeneland Korea Cup & Korea Sprint.